UK Property Forums consultant Hugh Blaza grapples with the Government’s lack of financial support for the Arc as it competes with the levelling-up agenda. 

‘That’ll larn yer!’, my dear ma used to say, as she pointed out that (again) I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

At the end of last year, I penned a piece in which I described what we might be looking forward to seeing from the Arc project this year. Now we discover that my enthusiasm over what central Government might contribute towards the project was, shall we say, somewhat misplaced.

Setting aside for the moment the question of who put the Gove into Government, we now have to come to terms with the latest news that the Arc has not received a mention in the levelling up white paper and consider what that might mean for the Arc project.

Central Government cottoned on to the extraordinary levels of innovation and activity in the Arc many years ago. Seeing that it could become a global success story, it devoted a substantial amount of time and effort (but not so much cash) into identifying ways in which it could support the project.

I clearly recall a speech in 2018 by since demoted Robert Jenrick to the effect that the project would have the Government’s full support. And the launch last year of a spatial strategy consultation seemed to indicate that at last the Government had realised that the need to understand the full scale and extent of the opportunity was fundamental to deciding how best it could support it. It was going to put its money where its mouth was.

Bear in mind that the Government’s appreciation of the opportunity pre-dated the creation of the levelling up programme. And while we wait (with or without bated breath) what the levelling up project truly means and discover which parts of the country will benefit from it, it does seem that the Arc will not be one of them.

Rumours that the Government wanted to build a million homes across the Arc over the next 10 years (a vision that local leaders had, incidentally, never adopted) were seized upon by green campaigners and the target was quietly dropped.

But the conundrum of how to accommodate people working in a region which was attracting people to it on account of the extent of its activity remains.

And we’re not just talking about homes but infrastructure, from transport to energy to water – and (for now) we won’t go into the notion that there are no deprived communities along the Arc which could benefit from a dollop of levelling up cash.

Anthony Browne, the MP for South Cambridgeshire (Con) has announced with some glee that the Arc would not feature in the levelling up programme and that it would target the areas which needed it the most (please define.)

Villages in his constituency could breathe a sigh of relief that they would not be inundated with new housing schemes. But he goes on to say that he would be lobbying for significant chunks of cash from the £22 billion per annum R&D investment fund to be provided by central Government.

It is not entirely clear how he reconciles the growth which the R&D investment will deliver to his region with his relief that the Government will not be supporting the Arc.

Meanwhile, the Arc Leaders’ Group must come to terms with the prospect that while they can carry on for now (a period of six months has been mooted – I’d be looking for a new job!) there is no guarantee that their funding will continue to be provided.

What looks like the inevitable ‘re-devolution’ to local authorities may be welcomed by some (North Bucks springs to mind in particular), issues over how to co-ordinate the creation of a highly functional, connected and environmentally positive region (the challenges for achieving which had been grasped enthusiastically) are brought sharply into question.

Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise; the longevity of and reliance upon central Government policy is so often in direct correlation to whoever is in power and, in any event, the Arc leaders might have been sceptical of relying on what increasingly looks like this Government’s last gasps of policy before it is despatched by the electorate.

It is to be hoped that the champions of the Arc will, despite the loss of support from central Government, somehow continue their collaboration and coordination. If it was always right to believe in it, it still will be.

It’s just that it seems, at the moment, that the Government hasn’t made it any easier. Should we really be surprised?

© Thames Tap (powered by

Sign up to receive your free weekly Thames Tap journal here.